If in Survivor Philippines, the contestants are running around half-naked all the time, Pinoy Fear Factor has bodies almost always covered. When doing stunts, they're padded with lots of protective gear, effectively concealing their bikinis. When at rest, they're buried under bulky warm clothing. (The show was shot in the middle of winter in Argentina.) So even though the guys assembled are cute to hot, this is no flesh marathon.
But Fear Factor has always been sneakily sexy (those quick bikini changes), and also sexy-weird: With pretty faces mussied by cockroaches or skinny dipping against snakes, bodies hurtled and abused, crashing into metal and glass, vomiting, the assorted paraphernalia and some participants' shaved armpits, this is likely guilty pleasure for the extreme fetishist.
That said, the network's attempts to spice up the show with vanilla -- such as "punishments" for losers, which include stripdancing (Jommy Teotico) and serving food in women's bikini (Marion Dela Cruz), or building up kilig loveteams or hyping the possibility that one contestant might be gay (Marion again) -- seems slightly incongruous to the hardcore nature of the game. Ultimately, the real hook of Pinoy Fear Factor is that it's the most elaborate obstacle course on TV, a completely watchable sports program on primetime.
The male "participantes" are Elmer Felix, Jommy Teotico, Jose Sarasola, Manuel Chua, Marion Dela Cruz, Ram Sagad, RJ Calipus. The women are hot too, but you didn't hear that from me. Hosted by Ryan Agoncillo, who's cute but pose-y.
A roundup of 2008 gay movies at After Elton, from a very American perspective, of course. You know this because nowhere is Love of Siam mentioned, an '07 Thai film that swept the rest of Asia this year. And a few French gay films are clustered into a category called French. My roundup of the year's Pinoy movies by New Year. Happy holidays.
(clockwise from left) Yul Servo, Fritz Chavez, Emilio Garcia, Director Senedy Que
There's no nudity, and a "penetration" consummates only towards the end, but Dose is a decidedly sexual journey. It's the story of a boy's coming of age, yet the genius of the movie is that it acknowledges the boy's sexuality as something to be anticipated and inevitable, a thing of the future, but also a tactile presence, already happening.
Edy (Fritz Chavez) likes to watch movies and imitate his favorite actresses. Snippets of screen gems from the 80's -- most of them from great works of camp like Temptation Island and Waikiki -- are interspersed, and it's a wonderful device. What we're made to feel is not merely nostalgia, but more urgently, the hidden allure and danger of Edy's moment-to-moment discoveries. It's an occuring force within him, whether or not there's an explanation for it.
It's the same natural tendency at work when he finds somebody's old dolls and begins to play with them, and also, especially, during an ever-evolving friendship with the house gardener Danny (Yul Servo). Under the steady hand of Writer-Director Senedy Que, the scenes between the boy and the older man are lovely and tender, but also increasingly tense. He frames his shots to suggest sex -- a carefully gripped garden hose here, two bodies on a pendulum swing there, Servo's half-naked body, so near yet so far, in ultra-short denims that expose the underwear bulges -- and it's done with as much wry humor as malicious suspense. What Que has constructed, brilliantly, is the period in a gay boy's life when he doesn't quite know if he should hold back or dive forward, because the world ahead is too unknown but also too mighty to ignore. Servo plays Danny smashingly. Almost innocent in the embrace of his own charisma, but also somewhat calculating, Danny is light and dark, a devil that's also the only guardian angel around. Symbolically, he's the forbidden fruit, a glimpse of both heaven and hell. If some audiences find the movie an uncomfortable viewing, it's because Que has allowed the mixed emotions to curdle all at the same time, resulting in an original blend of calm, almost deadpan, sexy fury. And, for a controversially themed drama, it's surprisingly free of moralistic judgment. I found it touching, funny, sad, and exhilarating. This is a gay coming of age that's deeper, braver, edgier than Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossing of Maximo Oliveros) or Ang Lihim Ni Antonio (Antonio's Secret).
Que, a multi-awarded writer making his directorial debut, bills Dose "a personal film", and whatever the factual details behind the story, it does have the power of a traumatic reminiscence. Every character is touched with a graceful humanity, including the aunt who wishes to cast away Edy's gay demons, played beautifully by Irma Adlawan, and Emilio Garcia as the older Edy, a filmmaker who makes a movie about when he was twelve and finds catharsis. The film also makes room for the boy's loneliness and familial alienation. The images are burnished like a disintegrating home video, long lost and rewatched. Dose is a memory of a present turning into the future -- a near-perfect encapsulation of the precise instance when there was no turning back.
The two Paolos play characters that snugly fit their public personas: Paolo Rivero is serious and mature (he's an Urian-nominated actor who's been making movies for close to a decade), while Paolo Serrano is impetuous and happy-go-lucky (he's allegedly involved in a webcam scandal in which he flashes his privates and in another scandal in which he allegedly extorted money from a gay lover). The contrast works erotic wonders.
They're neighbors who meet, have lots of sex, fall in love, fight, and break up. Think of it like a story from Kwentong Kalibugan -- short (a little over 40 minutes), something trite you might have heard before or thought up yourself, but delivers for as long as it gets you hot and hard. The set pieces are standard Pinoy softcore: shower, bedroom, bodega, car, basketball court. No dialogue too, just voice-overs. Clearly, the cost of making it must have been minimal, but you almost can't tell by the relatively decent technical values.
The two actors use their bodies well -- torsos, butts, pubes, bushy armpits, sweat, musculature. But half the appeal is in their facial expressiveness. Rivero brings the gravitas of a repressed man blossoming, but it's Serrano who steals the scenes with his unstoppably horny behavior. He channels sex with the mere flash of his naughty boyish smile. My favorite is when he assaults his partner's body with his actively lapping lips. I only wish the narrative didn't wind down disappointingly to a ho-hum ending. Here's to more Versuses.
The models are cute and their segments are unpretentious: They pose and fondle themselves (or a partner) for our viewing pleasure. The pause button is handy for a longer look at the peekaboo jewels, which often appear only partially -- a cockhead here, some balls there -- but there's one full semi-erection in a shower. There may be more exposed flesh here than in most erotica of its kind in the Philippines, but the abrupt cuts suggest a lot of good stuff were left in the editing floor. A couple of the models are pictured in the jacket, but absent in the video, and with the 40-minute running time, Koverboyz Fantasies can feel scrimped and incomplete.
Though the production values are certainly less polished than the still unbeaten bar set by Provoq, it's unfair to call Koveryboyz Fantasies a "jologs" (or poor man's) erotica. I think the twinky models -- billed first name only as Myles, Aljohn, Martee, Xander, and Borj -- are yummy in whatever social context. What makes the video less than stellar is the craftsmanship: a lack of careful attention to beauty. Watching it, I get a sense that the man behind the lens neglects to make his models look their best. There are unflattering angles, lighting, and styling here. Erotica's power is image. At its most effective, all the elements combine to ellicit a reaction at first sight, and the viewer may not be able to explain why. The feeling stems from the gut. Koverboyz Fantasies is an okay softcore, more satisfying than Queeriosity's previous release M2M Eyeball, but it's almost disappointing knowing a bigger reaction is possible had it been pieced with a little more love.
The international release doubles with M2M Eyeball.
It's scientifically impossible to watch everything on TV, even in the age of TiVo. That is why we rely on each other to tell us what we missed.
Thus, this survey. What was the hottest thing you saw on TV in the last twelve months? A particular hunk doing a particular thing on a particular soap, perhaps? Anything sexy from the reality shows, variety, sports, comedies, documentaries, news, even commercials? It could be a moment as quick as a blink of an eye or one that lasts an entire episode. Post your pick(s) in the comments section. A video link to convince us would be nice.
To get the ball rolling, I submit my first nomination.
For your consideration...
Ejay Falcon Makes a Tarzan Entrance in Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition Plus
The ridiculousness doesn't stop in Lalamunan, but the experience is more frustrating than fun. That's because the potentially delirious setup -- a husband who sleeps with his driver and batters his wife, who sleeps with her doctor -- has been plotted and executed in the lamest way imaginable. Lalamunan is cheap, in all senses of the word.
I worry that Writer-Director Jigz Recto, who also composed the beer garden theme song, has neither eye nor pulse for what he's doing, because the movie is afflicted by an ugly stiltedness that makes every acting awkward and the scenes moribund, including the sex. How can a buttfuck between Jordan Herrera and Ran Domingo not be steamy? Or Rico Barrera in a bunch of lovemaking with his women? See it and weep.
A few silly moments, however, got my blood going. Rico Barrera's nipple is "absentmindedly" finger-flicked by his partner throughout an entire sequence of talking in bed. Ran Domingo sports an attention-calling stiffie in his white undies. And, best of all, Jordan Herrera's buns in full view in the shower cuts directly to Ran Domingo's buns in the bedroom. If only the rest of this boring movie were as cheeky.
It's held every year in a different South East Asian country, and this year it's in Manila, at the Ateneo De Manila University and Mogwai Film Bar in Cubao, Quezon City, from November 18-23. The film conference is a series of screenings and panels that are usually academic in tone, with highly specific topics for discussion.
Of special interest this year, as far as this blog is concerned, is a panel entitled "Gender Issues in Independent Cinema" on Saturday, November 22, 1:00-2:30 PM. The panel will be moderated by everyone's hero Danton Remoto, and includes a reading of a paper by Roberto Reyes Ang from New York University entitled "Recontextualizing Sexual Identities: The Validation of the Non-feminine Homosexual in Philippine Movies". You might be interested in that one.
You may also be interested in more intellectual orgies about indie cinema, including one roundtable on writing and criticism, plus a screening of Serbis, if you still haven't seen it or wish to torment yourself again with its third world chic. Complete schedule of film screenings here. Programme of panel discussions here.
Jean Garcia nurses Polo Ravales and Joseph Bitangcol
Joel Lamangan has always been a director of B-movie sensibilities. He makes movies fast and relatively cheap, and everything he touches acquires a bulldozing brazenness, stripped of subtlety. This is why his prestige bids for Art or High Drama, like Mila or Mano Po, are accessible but clunky. Yet when the movies go over-the-top, as in the camp of his comedies, the sensationalized violence, or sexploitation, there's something to enjoy. Like a true B-movie filmmaker, Lamangan's movies aim for some kind of social/political/spiritual higher power, falling instead on simplistic and recycled ideas, and only really succeed when they delight us on a brainless level.
Walang Kawala at first appears to be the Studio Man hopping on the gay indie bandwagon, working for independent company DMV in the digital format, complete with a dramatic English translation of a title, as if positioning for a festival abroad. But the film turns out to be everything we already know about the director's work: Irritating when it tries to be important, and delightful when it's lurid. It's a mix bag.
Joseph Bitangcol runs away from their fishing town, then becomes a macho dancer in Manila, while Polo Ravales, his lover, follows to find him -- a gay transposition of the plot of Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag. A couple of references made about the Desaparecidos hint that the journey of these two lost homosexuals is an allegory to military abductions in the Philippines, but I think the forced comparison is empty, in much the same way that Hubog never really said anything about EDSA 3 Revolt, no matter how many references were crammed into it.
When you get down to it, Walang Kawala is a standard potboiler in which two men spiral down involuntarily into an inferno of sexual torture, right unto its merciless, meaningless standard ending, and it's the brash embrace of that exploitation that keeps us glued, even if we don't admit it. In one tense scene, Polo Ravales' innocent, tearful face is stuffed with a pistol, which slides in and out of his mouth, and I'm not as shocked by the overt sexual suggestiveness as much as the thought that the competent actor has fearlessly subjected his body for snuff spectacle. We actually watch the weapon abuse his orifice! I cringed and I laughed and I cheered at the bravura of it all. It's true elsewhere in the film. Joseph Bitangcol strips his bikini to flaunt his butt onstage, then later, while asleep, his brief bulge occupies nearly half the entire screen, to be fondled by the hands of Paolo Rivero. A crew of macho dancers are cute and near-naked, and, in a shot that's the talk of the town, Marco Morales, as the stardancer, makes a confident full frontal flash that may be the most in-your-face our movies have ever seen. That the actor seems to be intelligent as well as charming, as displayed in a couple of earlier scenes, including one in which he bathes in wet briefs, makes the stunt more shocking -- and appealing.
But the ringleader of this flesh circus is Emilio Garcia, who chews on the role of a sadistic cop like a cartoon demon in heat. In one scene, he appears to be the stand-in for a filmmaker of exploitation such as this, as he directs the two lovers to strip, kiss, and fuck each other while he jerks off. In Lamangan's totally mainstream style -- with bright rainbow lighting and perfectly safe angles and musical cues -- the edge in these situations is dilluted into a kind of S&M rape fantasy fulfillment. It's likely none of us will find any of it repulsive enough to walk out on, making it a palatable kind of sickness.
It's also nostalgic to see once sex idols Mike Magat and Jon Romano as thugs, still sexy, even though they remain clothed, like Paolo Rivero as a gay head waiter. Big-breasted Althea Vega, who hams and pounds in early scenes, is also an acting and baring discovery, one for the dudes.
The best part is that the movie was approved for an R-18 rating, without cuts, by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). It's baffling, considering just two weeks prior, three Filipino films had been X'ed -- Melancholia, Next Attraction, and Imburnal -- films that are definitely less graphic and arguably more sincere and effective in their artistic intentions. You're allowed to posit your own conspiracy theory as to why -- such as, "Obscenity for the MTRCB is a matter of political content" or "Art is X; Commerce is PG" -- and let's discuss. But bravo to the Board for making one of their most enlightened decisions in recent years, and I'm not being sarcastic. Because if trash -- granted, it's enjoyable trash -- is allowed to find an audience that can appreciate it, then who knows what sublime beauty the future of a free Philippine cinema can bring? If Melancholia, for example, were to be reassessed for classification, wouldn't it be silly to call it unfit now? Hey, isn't that movie also about the Desaparecidos?
As a glimpse into the underworld of small-time crooks in the district of Quiapo in Manila, Kurap is a little shortsighted -- the inferior successor of Tirador, a recent film that covered the same territory with more sweeping verve and detail. In Kurap, the plotting is brisk, but that's because of the many shortcuts and contrivances. But it has an intimate lead in Ambet (cutie Sherwin Ordonez), a petty thief with a rather poetic mission: To save his kid sister from impending blindness.
Director Roni Bertubin had also been vague about the nitty-gritty of the male prostitution underworld in his previous film Sikil, but he got away with a pained romantic center. In Kurap, a thorough insider's grasp -- of the milieu and the people -- is necessary but missing. Couldn't Ambet snitch on other criminals before those closest to him? The environment seems strangely limited. When it ends, in tragedy, there's a gaping sense of incompleteness. The stylish use of camera focus is a nice symbolic touch -- and also a completely motivated way of distorting sex images -- but overall, the craftsmanship is hit-and-miss.
If Kurap fails as a realistic depiction of a world, it does succeed as a homoerotic glossary of it. Apparently, all the criminals in Quiapo are good-looking men. Even the resident mute is a hunk (Rico Lazaro), who's also a closet homosexual, who makes time for bare-ass fucking with carwash hottie/thief Jeff Luna. The other studs in the gang are Christian Burke, Dexter Castro, and Nikolai Villamor. Everyone is hot. Most magnetic is star Sherwin Ordonez, who also shows ass and fucks with a woman. His personality flits from friendly to hostile to dropping trousers for a blowjob just because he knows the other guy wants it (Jojit Lorenzo, as a news videographer). You may call it character inconsistency, or just among the movie's many unexplained whims, but the actor is so adorable, I'm at least kept interested.
My MVP Winner Luis Palaganas (left), Finalist Adrian Pellejera (right), with guru Alex Compton
Quick, name the current reality show with the largest cast of crushable manly men! If you said Survivor Philippines or Pinoy Fear Factor, you're wrong. My MVP: Most Valuable Pinoy, on the revamped TV5 network, is a search for the next basketball superstar in the Philippines, and boy, does it have a lot of men. The show began with hundreds of applicants, whittled down to a top 25 for training camp, then to a final team of 12. The hosts are Bayani Agbayani and Jason Webb, with Norman Black and other coaches playing key mentor roles. The first episodes capitalized on the comedy factor of not-hot, typically unathletic wannabes, but also showed some undeniably cute players. Choice personalities got mini-features on their life stories, and, at its most touching and human, My MVP plays like Hoop Dreams for an entire nation. It's hard not to root for all the Filipino men taking a chance -- for some, a second chance -- at pro glory. Now, that's what I call a reality contest.
Too bad the show doesn't seem to be aware of its sexy potential. There's a fly-on-the-wall journalistic approach to coverage that makes it look like news footage. It lacks the clean elegance and jolty sensationalism that can make people ogle and swoon at the exciting events and personalities, which is what the most addictive game shows offer. Like sitting on upper box B, you'd have to squint and keep from blinking to relish the muscles and sweat.
The one advantage of buying an established international franchise like Survivor is that the format has already been perfected. With shifty focus and too-loose story editing, My MVP is a sometimes messy viewing experience. I even forget what the guys are playing for, and what the rules are exactly. I didn't even know this week's challenge against PBA veterans was to be the last episode. (The show bows this week.) I should have promoted this show earlier, with this unsolicited advice: If My MVP stepped up to woo a gay audience plus women who are only into the game because of the boys, we would have new basketball idols right now with obsessive following. Hey, there were at least a couple of homoerotic jokes thrown by the boys during the show's run, and we all know sports is gay anyway. Let's hope for a second season.
You say you want to watch a gay film without sex or nudity? Then catch Maling Akala, showing at Robinsons Indie Sine from November 5 to 11. Starring Victor Basa and Jodi Santamaria-Lacson, the film is a romance and a comedy and a mystery, which portrays the guy's homosexuality ambiguously until the end. But I find it's best viewed with the knowledge of his sexuality beforehand, as it allows the film to take on deeper psychological colors regarding women who pin their hopes on gay men and gay men who wittingly hide their true nature. My full review from 2007 here. For showtimes, click here.
Meanwhile, three gay sex-marketed films yet unclassified by the MTRCB (doesn't necessarily mean X-rated) get "director's cut" premieres this week at the University of the Philippines Cine Adarna: Walang Kawala on November 5, Kurap on November 8, and Lalamunan on November 13. Trailers here, here, and here. But even without my prodding, I bet you're already excited about those.
Raquela Rios is a ladyboy prostitute from Cebu City with a simple wish: To someday walk the streets of Paris. Based on actual events from Rios' life, whose birth name is Earvin, this work of fiction that's shaped like a documentary was made by Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur Johannesson and producers from Iceland, U.S.A., and the Philippines, and stars Rios herself. Her story is a geographic splurge -- New York, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Cebu, Paris, and more -- a globe-trotting trip that has the easygoing flow of a fun fairy tale. Crucial to the charm are a cast of lovable supports, especially Raquela's transsexual and transgender friends in Cebu, a ladyboy internet superstar in Thailand, a ladyboy born and raised in Iceland but of Filipino origin, and Michael (Stefan Schaefer), an American owner of a ladyboy website who may possibly clinch romance with our heroine.
But the brilliance of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela is in the sadness that shimmers underneath the fabric of hope. The film mirrors Raquela's restlessness with that of the entire Philippines: a spirit of third-world dislocation and longing. The movie lays the truth about ladyboy existence, and it cuts deep: Because she was born in a physical, material state she didn't want, Raquela will never be fully realized, even when she is already living the dream. Her place could be somewhere in the past, in myth, beyond this world.
Writer-Director Rico Maria Ilarde has been making fantasy fright films since 1988's Z-Man. I wouldn't call him a master of horror, but he's at least a mason of pulp. In his latest, 2007's Altar, which gets a theatrical release this week, the economy of his mounting affects the overall impact -- it's not scary -- but the elements have a tingly charm. Zanjoe Marudo plays a retired boxer assigned to do construction work with a precocious buddy (Nor Domingo) in a remote, haunted house.
The real trademark of Ilarde's movies is the casting of bodilicious actors as lead machos who must battle the monsters (previously, they included Yul Servo, Carlos Morales, and Monsour Del Rosario) -- of course a subversion of the usual horror practice in which the terrorized hero is a woman, but no longer the gender novelty that it was since 1987's Evil Dead 2. I enjoyed watching the vertical, lean-beef, ex-model Zanjoe peel off his shirt, or work up beads of sweat, or burst into a torso-grinding dance (though clothed), or generally be a convincing emotional actor. It's the brief sight of him bare-chested in body paint that got me through the parts when the story logic began to malfunction. Not exactly homoerotic, especially when the maids in short skirts arrive as paramours, and only occassionally sexy, Altar is a truly unpretentious B-movie, yes, but just an okay one.
In movies about making movies, we learn that what goes on behind the camera is usually more compelling than what's in front. In Next Attraction, it's not. In this 90-minute "making-of" of a short film, composed of mostly static long takes of locations and crew, what we get is the tedium of a regular film shoot. We're forced to watch the mundane actions of people doing their jobs or waiting, every once in a while with a glint of humor or perception. But always, we're teased that what's happening off frame is far more interesting, like when we can tell there's a kissing scene or a confrontation but can't see it. When the incomplete short film is finally attached like an epilogue, it's at once a climax, a payoff, and a relief -- a release from limbo, like a dream, fulfilled.
The funny thing is, the short -- a linear tale of a boy who runs away (Coco Martin), hooks up on the streets for gay sex (with Paolo Rivero), then returns home -- is more captivating than the purgartory that precedes it, even though it's a traditional and overused narrative while the other is a bold and new approach. That's because the making-of (shot on video) is almost too inhuman and impersonal, as if stripped of passion and desire to connect, where actors are not characters but robots in their duties, while the product (shot on 16mm film) is instantly recognizable and throbs with feeling. The juxtaposition is cerebral. Director Raya Martin has toyed with questions of cinema and storytelling in all of his previous features, and the results are sometimes great but often difficult. In Next Attraction, he succeeds at proving such cinematographic experiments may afterall be inconsequential and inferior to human stories the way we've always known them. That the film soaks in its own banality is its grandest irony.
Every gay man's fantasy Johnron Tanada is adorable in a tight-fitting policeman's uniform, which unfortunately remains on him the entire time. Fully clothed, the hunk has never spoken so many lines in any of his previous films, and watching him in Lukaret, I realized his unsophisticated nasally accented drawl may have been a limitation elsewhere, but here he's hotter because of it.
Tanada plays a supporting role as a rookie cop investigating a series of murders in a small town, but the crimes don't happen till about halfway through the movie, after sluggish expositions about an eatery owner (Glydell Mercado) and a twink (Ralph Darell Mateo) who wandered looking for his uncle and a new life. New actor Mateo, with a cherub face and cute baby fats, flashes his butt three times, and engages in drunken lovemaking with Mercado. If this movie were made in the barako 90's, veteran sexy actress Mercado would be assigned most of the flesh baring, but expectations have changed in the gay new millennium, and nobody bats an eyelash.
None of the tame sexy attempts, though welcome, is enough to save what is essentially a one-dimensional schlock play, where acting means looking away to emphasize emotion and actors wait for each other to finish their badly written, indicating lines. The portrayal of the insane woman is so anti-feminist, it almost made me want to start a blog called "The Babae Review". Writer-Director Felino Tanada, who last year adapted the beloved play Hanggang Dito Na Lamang At Maraming Salamat only to expose its ideas about homosexuality as outdated, has made another aesthetically moldy picture. It looks like it's been shot for 80's television with a script from radio.
Billed as a "black comedy", the unfunny melodrama contains only one great comedic surprise, and it appears at the very end. To see it, you must remain seated during the credits -- that is, if you haven't already walked out by then.
I can understand if an old movie is hard to find. Wouldn't it be fantastic to own a DVD of Sex Warriors and the Samurai? But what to make of recent films that still don't get video releases? Surely, celluloid disintegration is not a problem in the digital age, and neither are licensing and other legal issues that plague the old productions. Could it be the censors? Producers taking too much time to find distribution? It doesn't make a lot of sense considering the current boom in video sales especially of gay-themed movies. Here are five I'm most clamoring for.
Troika (2007) With hunks Andre Soriano and Jamil Basa in a bisexual love triangle, and darlings of the gay community Josh Ivan Morales, Johnron Tanada, and Will Sandejas among the supporting buff miners, Ihman Esturco's directorial debut is a sure video hit, especially since it was shown in only 25 theaters in early 2007. Release the video!
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (2005) A pre-scandal Paolo Serrano plays a macho dancer auditioning to become an actor, while a pre-Parola Justin De Leon is a masseur. These are two of the four stories about spiritual men and their bodies in this Gil Portes-directed drama, written by future star director Adolf Alix, Jr. The other two stories aren't as gay, but the cast is handsome enough: Neil Ryan Sese and Richard Quan. Release the video!
Hada (2006) A boy runs away from his rural home to seek his lost father in the city, meets Emilio Garcia, then a twist. On video, we can fastforward the strange, boring parts where nothing happens (like a mother cooking) to jump directly to the strange parts where nothing happens but are not boring! (Like boys bathing.) It's one of the 10 Best Macho Dancer Movies Ever. Release the video!
inter.m@tes (2004) The story of gay friends who meet over the internet and bond in Puerto Galera depict friendship a la Broken Hearts Club, though not as charming. Produced and directed by Hamilton McLeod, it has the same commitment to modern gay attitudes as Cris Pablo's movies, but did not find similar success then. The ensemble includes Ian Veneracion as a closeted gay actor, with Raymond Bagatsing, Simon Ibarra, William Thio, Miguel Moreno, Mike Lloren, Jomari Jose, and Jojo Alejar. Release the video!
Sinungaling Na Buwan (Liar Moon) (2007) From an award-winning screenplay, the Ed Lejano drama about three heartbreaks (one is gay), with Jake Macapagal, Frank Garcia, JR Valentin, Perry Escano, and Ricky Davao, was hardly ever seen, having been abruptly pulled from the Cinemalaya competition in 2007 and never released theatrically. It will likely find its audience if someone follows this advise: Release the video!
Can you imagine a show on a major network like ABS-CBN OR GMA with so many queer personalities for an entire hour week after week? Right, you can't. That's why Project Runway Philippines, as done on cable channel ETC, wisely sticks to the perfectly good format and tone of the famous international franchise, perhaps the best reality program showcasing real talent. Watching it is like peering into a hidden world (from TV, anyway), the world of Philippine fashion designers, where "individuality" is valued (see contestants' first challenge) and "personality" is the conduit. The language may be something we hear from our colorful friends in real life, but not on TV. After calling her work crap, Ava Paguyo quips she must "un-crap" it. The show trusts this strangeness to translate, and that's a relatively brave move on Philippine television. Similarly, whenever someone utters the word "fabulous", it sounds like the most overkilled cliche that it is.
Speaking of personality, there's enough of it to keep things interesting. Eli Gonzales bounces like a floozy gym bunny, and his cheerful nonchalance is refreshing amidst the stress. Conversely, Veejay Floresca reminds me of a classroom drama queen -- his competitiveness is hardwired to his being emotional. I think the judges were too hard on Eli during the Hip-Hop Challenge, when they preferred Veejay's work, even as it infracted the rules, to further underline how much they hated Eli's. I wonder if the fact that Eli is the show's cutest guy has anything to do with it. We always tend to undermine the intelligence of attractive people, don't we? It makes more sense in our gay world. I'm rooting for Philipp Tampus in the final three showdown soon, only because he seems like a consistently solid, grounded, and humble person, almost like husband material. And my God, is Jaz Cerezo a man, a woman, or the first transsexual on national weekly TV who isn't a comic relief but an actual society-contributing talented individual with a voice? The judges have apparently been cast based on how much they resemble their U.S. counterparts. Is Rajo Laurel channeling Michael Kors? I don't know if "mentor" Jojie Lloren was of any actual help to the contestants, but those eyeglasses sure made the part.
But for all its noble stabs at integrity, Project Runway Philippines also, inadvertently, shines an unflattering light on the insularity of the fashion scene in the Philippines. One of the prizes is a shot at Philippine Fashion Week? Seriously, any of these contestants have enough talent to pull it off on their own. (Two have done it already prior to joining the show.) And Mega Magazine doesn't have the influence of Elle, not even in our own country. It doesn't help that, during the Legends of Philippine Fashion Challenge, there are no supporting visuals to cue us to the works of these masters who aren't exactly household names -- a spoiled opportunity at educating viewers. During the Terno Challenge, controversial politician Imelda Marcos guests as a "fashion icon", and it's a telling sign that thus far, Fashionistas in the Philippines have always been a step removed from the sensibilty of the rest of the country and, I guess, the world. Project Runway Philippines can often seem like an aquarium for the elitist self-importance of an entire struggling industry, but also its possibilities, hopes, and desire to create more impact to everyone else outside the circle.
You might also be interested to know that the Thai gay sensation Love of Siam is in competition. Here is the official trailer that sells the movie as a straight teen romance, but click to this clip for a better sample of the film's unique spirit.
Love of Siam - Official Trailer
The 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival runs October 16 to 29 at Gateway Cineplex, Araneta Center, Cubao.
"12 Most Sizzling Boys Under 23". Why 23? Is that the screen age youngish actors can get away with? The point is that the guys are young and Star Studio Magazine got them shirtless. The insane appeal of these monochromatic snapshots lies in the thin line between innocent and sexy, boyish and manly. Bravo. The armpits are delicious. Everyone should have been made to raise their arms. Only one shirtless photo per boy? What a tease. I demand to see the outtakes from those photo shoots. I demand it, dammit.
The shirtless boys are: Gerald Anderson, JC De Vera, Enchong Dee, Robi Domingo, Jake Cuenca, Aljur Abrenica, Carlo Guevara, Joem Bascon, Marvin Raymundo, Rayver Cruz, Jason Abalos, and Matt Evans.
The Philippines used to make a lot of sexy movies set in remote rural landscapes, which provided the ideal backdrop for scantily clad women on the verge of losing their innocence. We can tell much has changed in moviegoing tastes because in the new film Binyag, the object of our gaze is a scantily clad, often naked man (Ran Domingo), and it feels like a gay reinvention of something we miss, a throwback to the decades when the sexy movie was neither urban nor social realist, but a nature fantasia.
The first one-third of the movie -- which is a picturesque passage of this quiet man frolicking in the waves and rocky formations, ignoring his female admirer (Ynez Veneracion), but intrigued by an older gay man (Simon Ibarra) -- made me think I was watching something special. There's a generosity in director Mico Jacinto's compositions, not only in the keen technical attention that promotes the glossy capabilities of the P2 camera and shames many digital movies that try to look expensive, but even more for what he chooses to show and how much. There is no shortage in coverage of sun-glazed images, which match the exploration of Ran Domingo's body as if it were the most magnificent of terrains. The first-time actor, who was called Randolph Dungo as a model, possesses a lithe dark beauty that, refreshingly, doesn't seem to have been manicured or gymmed to death, but seems to have sprung directly from the goodness of the sea. We see a lot of him in king-size detail -- including his armpits with sparse growth, his buttocks, and his crotch, whether bulging in various tight undies or dangling limply in full frontal glory. There's also one ticklish montage that's like a showcase of the many creative ways to conceal simulated blowjobs.
Sadly, the film isn't as generous in substance. When Leo is smitten by a talent agent (Paolo Rivero) and recruited to audition for the movies, the story moves to the city and Binyag slowly reveals a cynical core. SPOILERS ALERT!!! Characters will spontaenously talk to the camera to proclaim selfish motivations. A movie director, a movie producer, and the talent caster all revel at their exploitation of actors. A boy so painfully shy before losing his virgnity (Kenji Garcia) displays an arrogant side after. Everyone shows their darker nature, except for our hero, who sluggishly moves through his prostitution with a single emotion: weariness. I felt weary watching it myself. Despite our national fascination with prostitutes, it's amazing how so many of our movies are afraid to envigorate their prostitute characters with complex flaws and reactions -- you know, things that will make them more truthful and more interesting. Binyag turns out to be the same old story of the good-hearted slut who must return to the province.
The ending baffled me, but not in a good way. There is certainly a touch of magic realism in the way a character suddenly disappears without explanation and in another character's insistence that a love prophecy will come true. But the mysteries point to possible answers that just may be too ugly. Is it implied that Leo "became" gay because of what was done to him (there in the movie's title, no less) and that in the end, he chooses to be with a woman? How is this possibility supposed to be exciting? It's a good thing the movie wasn't clear about it. At least we can get distracted by the fine sensuality before realizing it's all swimming in an empty vacuum.
If the Western has the Wild West with its cowboys, the Macho Dancer Movie nestles within the dark walls of the Gay Bar with its cast of gyrating, undressing male performers. Macho dancers are not to be confused with the callboy/common prostitute or the torero/live sex performer, although they can be those too. The Macho Dancer's weapon is his particular brand of striptease. And just as the Western is American and the Samurai film Japanese, the Macho Dancer Movie is quintessentially Filipino. Is there any country other than the Philippines that can fill a top ten list of macho dancer movies with a few extra to spare? In these films, the plight of a people are played out via intermittent seductive numbers, like a musical, but hotter, where the thongs usually come off. Herewith, the zarzuelas of our time.
1. Sibak: Midnight Dancers Directed by Mel Chionglo (1994) Written by Ricardo Lee
Packed end to end with eroticism, buoyed by three brothers who work as dancers in the same bar, Sibak recreates a universe that is so complete, it's downright epic. There's drugs, theft, streetwalking, repeated abuse by an influential client, a minor who moonlights, true romance between dancers and gay men, and of course, the nightly shows where the stage literally spills with the swarm of nubile bodies. And yet it's most vividly about family, dismantled and reassembled by poverty and the new conditions of postmodern times. A decade and a half since it was unleashed, Sibak still feels like a needle shot straight from the underground. Hot Dancers: Gandong Cervantes, Lawrence David, Alex Del Rosario, Danny Ramos / Hottest Dance: The debut of Gandong
2. Macho Dancer Directed by Lino Brocka (1988) Written by Amado Lacuesta and Ricardo Lee
Where it all began. The story -- a rookie enters the world of macho dancing, loses his innocence and ends co-opted in a corrupted society -- struck such wild resonance that it has become the formula for the genre. That, and the bold, lingering devotion to the dances, jerkoffs, and onstage sex, plus the blatant melodarama. If everything else that followed seemed like copycats, that's because the first one hit the right nerve. Hot Dancers: William Lorenzo, Allan Paule, and Daniel Fernando (who is still the only actor to win a Gawad Urian for portraying a macho dancer) / Hottest Dance: The Shower
3. Sa Paraiso Ni Efren Directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes (1999) Written by Robert Silverio and Jun Lana
The first thing it did was to shift the point of view to the gay man sitting in the audience (Allan Paule), lonely and struggling to understand his object of admiration. The macho dancer here is a thing of enigmatic, beastly beauty, yet no other movie has dived as deeply into the psyche of the supposedly bisexual man in a homosexual relationship, even entering his childlike dreams. We've yet to see a richer exploration of the bond between the gay spectator and his macho dancer love. Hot Dancers: Anton Bernardo, Simon Ibarra, Zoltan Amore / Hottest Dance: Fishnet Dance
4. Burlesk King Directed by Mel Chionglo (1999) Written by Ricardo Lee
Funny and tongue-in-cheek, as is the trend in TF's (Titillating Films) of the 90's, Burlesk King was a refreshing entry to the genre because it basked in the naivete of its two cute young leads, who start in the macho dancing business with beaming smiles and little hang-ups. They're also American half-breeds at a time when the U.S. military bases had abandoned the people in sex entertainment who depended on them. The audition scene is untoppable, pure funny-sexy gold, but is only the beginning of a depraved yet sappy journey. Hot Dancers: Rodel Velayo, Leonardo Litton, Tonio Ortigas / Hottest Dance: Velayo's soapy peek-a-boo
5. Bridal Shower Directed by Jeffrey Jeturian (2004) Written by Chris Martinez and Armando Lao
Sure, it's about the chicks -- three gal pals who try to mount the perfect bridal shower party -- but the heart (and groin) of this sexy comedy is the search for the perfect macho dancer and the romance that develops between him and Miss Insecure and Overweight (Cherry Pie Picache). Alfred Vargas' Joebert is the Macho Dancer as Leading Man, the most romantic male stripper in Pinoy movies, with two supporting macho dancers who are romantic in their own right -- they share a kiss. Hot Dancer: Alfred Vargas / Hottest Dance: The Bridal Shower
6. Twilight Dancers Directed by Mel Chionglo (2006) Written by Ricardo Lee
The macho dancer movie hits midlife crisis. An ageing performer meets a young rising star, and just when you think every macho dance has been filmed before, here's one with a live snake, and older people are now prone to sudden political speechifying. Hot Dancers: Tyron Perez, Lauren Novero, Allen Dizon, Kris Martinez, Johnron Tanada, Chester Nolledo, Harold Montano / Hottest Dance: The Search for Mr. Big
7. Totoy Mola Directed by Abbo Dela Cruz (1997) Written by Cris Marcelino and Bunny Martinez
Adapted from a popular serialized fiction in a tabloid newspaper about a guy with a gigantic penis who finds a home in a gay bar, this hit could have left less to the imagination (we never see the schlong). But macho dancers don't come as iconic as the character of Totoy Mola. Hot Dancer: Jay Manalo / Hottest Dance: Totoy's training
8. Hada Written and directed by Lau De Jesus (2006)
Ridiculed when it was shown in theaters, this piece of bad filmmaking from before the boom of gay digital movies rewards those with patience and a sense of humor. A runaway teen bunks with his cousin the macho dancer. They're both irresistible jailbait, but the rest of the attraction is real-looking macho dancers with not exactly great bodies doing extended lazy solos. Begs for a video release to be rediscovered. Hot Dancer: Dexter De Vera / Hottest Dance: De Vera's solo
9. Stardancer Directed by Ihman Esturco (2007) Written by Aileen Viray and Ferdie Aboga
A straight-to-video documentary that interviews real-life headlining macho dancers, good-looking and personable, with re-enactments of their gigs. By no means an exceptional doc, it nonetheless mixes humanity and sexuality to steamy effect. Hot Dancers: Victor Valerio, Brent Lorenzo, Kiko Montenegro, Russel Anderson
10. Mapanukso Directed by Robert Abihay (2003) Written by Rolly Perello Lao
A B-movie in which a former macho dancer illogically murders the gay man (Emilio Garcia) who gave him his break in showbiz. It gets a spot on the list only for the onstage magnetism of Gerald Lauron, who wasn't memorable in anything else. Hot Dancer: Gerald Lauron / Hottest Dance: Lauron's solo
Almost made the list:Gusto Ko Ng Lumigaya (2000) with Alyson VII, Bawal Na Halik (1997) with Jay Manalo (again), Biglang Liko (2002) with Harold Pineda, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (2005) with Paolo Serrano, Kalakal (2008) with Froilan Moreno.
Other movies in which macho dancing only makes a minor appearance and therefore cannot really be classified as macho dancer movies: Sagad Sa Init (1998) with Jomari Yllana and Cholo Escana in a wonderful number in front of screaming ladies, Manay Po! (2006) with Christian Vasquez in a pool party, Trabaho (2005) with a gang of ordinary boys doing a bridal shower, straight-to-video Provoq (2006) with John Miller as a macho dancer in one of ten unrelated vignettes. The instructional video Hubad! (2007) features wall-to-wall stripteasing men, but the dancing is depicted as a recreational diversion, not a profession.
You've got to admire the debut of an article-heavy gay magazine after Icon, L, and Generation Pink have folded. Damn, we miss those, don't we? Invoice announces itself as a "GLBT Business and Advocacy Journal" (what a mouthful!), and it's serious about being serious. It doesn't even employ the sexy come-on tactics as those previous literate rags -- no naked men portfolios! Which is not totally a bad thing, but must the layout be unsexy too? The content is not exactly meat and potatoes facts and figures as the cover suggests. With features on outstanding role models and an especially helpful spotlight on gay hang-outs in major cities in the Philippines, Invoice reads like an interesting lifestyle magazine trying to dress up as an old politician's operation manual. It could benefit from a little more flair. Even the name is dry. For a gay magazine, Invoice is a little too straight. The plus side is that it does look discreet when you read it in the train or at the doctor's office.
Special mention goes to an article about gay indie films, and not only because The Bakla Review is cited as a reference, hehe. I have a few beef to raise with the chronology of its historical facts and simplistic generalizations, but that's because I'm anal about the subject. Maybe a discussion about it some other time. However, the research-based approach to talking about movies is welcome, especially amidst lazy top-of-the-head thoughts that pass for writing in media today. The aforementioned focus on gay clubs and bars is a better gauge for what's good about this issue -- not exactly the writing (which is sometimes bordering on ass-kissing PR), or the photos (which can be more striking), but for the general direction of its inclusive, non-Manila-centric outlook, and its promise that a GLBT publication can offer information you didn't know you wanted to know, tackle issues seriously, and possibly, please dear god, possibly have fun.
Answer: Technically not a question. But it provokes one: Is there a gay film without nudity?
There's at least one among recent Filipino films. When Timawa Meets Delgado stars Kristoffer Grabato as a gay nursing student who pines to be reunited with his former boyfriend in the U.S. There is no nudity in the film. Not even an attractive guy taking off his shirt for that sexual effect. Granted, his story is only half of the entire narrative, which is really about the nursing diaspora.
But then, if a film is not about gay sex and it doesn't have nudity, is it even a gay movie? It may be hard to imagine, if our definition of gay is gender identity that's linked to sexuality. It makes sense that so many gay films have a sexual context. Don't most people equate gayness with attraction to the same sex in the first place? Seen in this light, nudity is not a cliche. The sight of male bodies in whichever state of undress and its instant primal effect on a person does seem like an organic part of the gay experience, and therefore gay cinema. But let's dig the libraries, and we can probably name documentaries, abstract films, animations, even commercial genre movies, also stories about transsexuals, that may contain no nudity, but still be "gay". However, I don't think I'll ever get tired of the flashing of male flesh in movies. I think it's a treat. Keep 'em coming.
Answer: The simple answer is technology. With the development of digital filmmaking came a drop in cost and easier access to tools. Because the mainstream studios weren't making personal gay films, it was simply a matter of time before new voices told their unique stories from the ground up.
But it's what filmmakers did with the technology that brought us to the explosion of today. In 2003, Cris Pablo not only independently produced his debut feature Duda/Doubt, he also self-distributed to movie theaters using a digital projector. What he did basically was to prove a film that depicted the realistic concerns of realistic homosexuals could find an audience and be financially successful. When people call Cris Pablo a pioneer, by god they're not kidding. By 2005, when Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) and Masahista (The Masseur) both took similar risks, somewhat simultaneously, "blowing up" their digitally shot materials to 35mm prints for commercial runs in movie houses, winning international awards, thereby capturing the interest of a larger Filipino public, we knew a new order had been tapped.
Other institutional developments were the additional push, such as the establishment of more digital venues, especially the Robinsons IndieSine, and a growth in film festivals as enterprises, opportunities for international distribution, and the co-opting of commercial players, including studios and video companies. Suddenly filmmakers know where and how they can find their audience, and this is encouragement to make more films. It wouldn't be an overstatement to say that the Philippine independent cinema we know today -- gay or otherwise -- has been pushed into mainstream consciousness, for better or worse, thanks to queer sensibility. What we're enjoying right now is the geyser phenomenon: Something repressed for many years has finally been released. Naturally, it's a tremendous overflowing of power, steam, and noise. Inspiration begets inspiration and so on and so forth, and there will be out-of-the-box personal movies for as long as people watch them.
The local version of the reality gameshow Survivor, which premiered this week, appears to be an exact replica of the U.S. format -- but with an advantage: Pinoy brown skin looks damn good in a tropical island setting.
I almost don't care what happens, as long as the hot men keep strutting their shirtless torsos at the beach, exerting their muscles to their physical limits, exposing armpits during tribe meetings, and speaking with testosterone passion. The show is daily eye candy, and already an achievement in focus group casting. The automechanic is a model (John Lopez), the basketball player is a model, though it's never mentioned (JC Tiuseco), the businessman was a Cosmo magazine bachelor (Kiko Rustia), while the driver, sewing machine technician, gym instructor, and sales person (Cris Cartagenas, Emerson Dino, Jace Flores Jr., and Rob Sy) might be models as well, if models acted like real men. Even the 48-year old web designer (Gigit Sulit) is probably a model, a fine daddy specimen. The most plain of the male castaways, looks-wise, is a waiter who's heavy in the midsection (Marlon Carmen), but also seems interesting in his own right. Is it a coincidence that the least hunky guy is also played up to be the main dissenter with a sour attitude?
Grouping and in-fighting are expected story angles, and it looks like it will be a predictably "surprising" season. But what I'm really jonesing to see is how much hotter the men will become as their beards overgrow, their bodies get stinkier, and hunger eats away their stored body fat. If the plot gets boring, or worse, if the personalities turn limp, I can still watch this thing with the mute button on. Oh, the women are hot too, but you didn't hear that from me. The pilot week is barely over, and I'm already waiting for the DVD.
Question: Contemporary gay movies are generally tragedies. How do you think this irony relates to the real lives of gay people? -From Dawnson (Question originally appears here.)
Answer: Tragic endings are a staple not of gay films per se, but of erotic films. It's all that sex -- whether gay or straight -- that "warrants" a death by murder or suicide or total calamity. There's something about Philippine culture, our religious, predominantly Catholic upbringing that tells us all that promiscuity and forbidden desire on display must somehow be punished by film's end. As viewers, we must be purged of the guilt of watching by restoring order through common morality. For the longest time, homosexuality has been part of that which is sinful and must therefore be thwarted by a downer ending.
I find it disheartening that many filmmakers today still think this is the way to make a movie, uncritical of their own positions on sex and homosexuality. Similarly, many viewers still sometimes prefer the taboo gloom of these negative movies. Notice the popularity of the tragic and heavyhanded Ang Lihim Ni Antonio over the light and unapologetic Kambyo. I'm sure fans will have different justifications for their preference (quality, technical merit, etc.), but I'm betting it's largely a function of tone. So maybe we still need these homosexuality-leads-to-death movies if only to see something onscreen that resembles our true feelings about our own experiences. It's possible many people still believe relations with the same sex is a dirty indulgence that must be kept in check. On the other hand, I smile everytime I hear a viewer complain about stupid endings. I see it as a sign that more gay Filipinos are now envisioning a more positive future for themselves, one in which we can live happily ever after. I think what we ask for is not a ban on tragedies; We're simply hungry for movies that are more imaginative, intelligent, and forward-thinking.
The commercials think outing homosexuals is funny. I would say wait, in real life, it's potentially very serious matter to the gay person, especially if the outing is not by his own initiative. But these admakers sure do make it funny.
In an all-male table meeting, an office dude tells his mates that someone is hiding a secret, and that he has just the thing to make him squeal. He proceeds to open a box of KFC, and, alas, someone indeed squeals. The image that follows is a few short seconds of performance comedy gold. Who is this actor who plays the closet office worker? With quivering fingers and a face tangled in knots of anxiety, he makes the surprise revelation work. Kudos, too, to the actor who does his nervous voice: "May shrimp na sa KFC, pare."
Like me, you may argue that an effeminate reaction doesn't necessarily mean a guy is gay, and that it's just another old stereotype used by marketers who want to say they include people like us in their agenda. But then, nowhere in the commercial is "gay" ever mentioned, so maybe the copywriters have pulled a clever trick on us -- winking at something we conclude for ourselves. More likely, the spot is aimed at the young urban office demographic, no matter which gender. Who can't relate to having a co-worker with a secret?
You may also wonder why his business buddies would want to out him in the first place, except only to have an excuse for a group hug, and to reassure him (and each other) that "We accept you." I guess that's the consolation. Outing is funny business, but it becomes feel-good with acceptance. Let's ignore the excuses that the guy makes as the advert closes. Maybe he's not ready yet, even though the good-looking men around him seem too eager to press their bodies against him. The great positive message in this commercial is not in the homosexual who comes out, but in the straight men who are unafraid to express tolerance and intimacy.
Overall an improved list from last year's, mainly because not everyone is a model this time. In Cosmopolitan Magazine's 69 Bachelors 2008, there are plenty students/models. And when they're just plain students, I bet they're actually angling to become models, if they aren't already in the roster of a modeling agency. How else were they able to assemble such a large cast if not for agents and auditions? Also, I really have to wonder why some are just plain "students" while others are specialized, like "mechanical engineering student" or "financial management student". Exactly what kind of courses add to papa appeal?
It's great to see a couple of working nurses in there, because it's a sign the editors considered the larger population. So, what, no call center agents? Not a hot enough profession for you? It's also nice to see someone over age 30, finally. And a dentist who's 19 -- What?! And a couple of musicians, who actually play rock, so I wonder if "musician" now sounds hotter than "rock star". But the winner judgment is in including seven professional rugby players in one spread. Because, although we're sure these guys are yummy individually, we know what this annual special called Cosmo Men is really about: abundance.
The ten centerfolds are hit-and-miss, as always. The only real surprise is basketball player Macky Escalona, who's a student athlete but not a model, or not yet, in a slightly more conservative version of Paul Artadi's naked balls-y pose in 2003. He looks like he's not enjoying the photo shoot, which makes it simultaneously adorable and annoying. Hip-hop artist Billy Crawford, though a cool choice, botches it with a shot that doesn't know what it wants to show us. Undereye shadows and an arm tattoo in a formless slouch? He, with two others, Paolo Contis and coverboy Derek Ramsay, are photographed only from the waist up, which is a boring cop-out considering about six dozen other men are half-naked too.
Finally, since this magazine is supposed to be for the ladies, I have to ask: Do women find it sexier when men are photoshopped to look like porcelain molds? What's wrong with pores? And, do none of you ever fantasize about blue collar workers? Is this absence from year to year indicative of the Pinay's perception of an ideal mate or simply the editors' narrow-mindedness? And, aren't you just bored of everyone talking about girls when you really know better?
Writer/Director/Producer Crisaldo Vicente Pablo's most indelible films (Duda, Bath House), and even some of his lesser ones (Bilog, Moreno), depict urbania as cynical, harsh, and sometimes bitter, then pits this environment against a person's romantic idealism. "What is the plight of the gay guy who wants to love in today's seemingly loveless world?" He always seems to be asking. His films are really about values. The incisive, thoroughly modern social dimension of his body of work is unjustly underpraised.
In his latest, Quicktrip, Metro Manila is a city where casual sex among strangers is easily started and just as easily terminated -- a world of quick sex trips. In one brilliant sequence, he details the step-by-step rituals of gay men inside a movie theater: the glances, the advances, the constant horizontal to's-and-fro's, the shift of loyalties, and the emotional ups and downs. Almost wordless, it's staged like a comic ballet.
At the heart of this unromantic milieu is Cris (Topher Barreto), Cris Pablo's most romantic surrogate yet. (His lead characters are always named after himself.) Cris is a minimum wage waiter and family breadwinner who is dumped by his call center agent boyfriend for essentially being unable to keep up with his lifestyle. As the movie follows Cris in one day, in which he desperately tries to win back his boyfriend, stumbles into the quicktrip scene for temporary relief, and meets Andro (Andro Morgan) who joins him in a quest for a private make-out spot a la Trick, Quicktrip depicts Cris as a walking bleeding optimist, an uncorrupted angel, the last modern romantic. Barreto, who makes his acting debut, is a find. Watching him, I dare you not to believe his inner goodness. When he disappears into the sunrise (not sunset), I want to cheer for his quiet resilience.
There is a dose of cruel reality to the turn of events -- something that might be expected from Pablo -- but I won't reveal it here. I will, however, mention the spicy humor in scenes where less masculine, less attractive gay men make flamboyant speeches about longing and heartache. In casual, funny ways, Quicktrip comments on the hierarchies of gay hook-ups: the poor versus the moneyed, the hottie versus the undesirable, the honest versus the pretentious, and the conflict in labels: the bisexual, the bakla, the tripper. There is also a strong progressiveness in its representation of the homosexual poor. Too often, our movies have pegged homosexuals as people with money to spend on impoverished straight men. There is always that rigid gender/economic divide. Quicktrip shatters the cliche by focusing on an underrepresented point-of-view. Cris is gay and poor. He's going out of his way not because he can afford it (he can't), or he's horny (he holds out on the quickie to get to know his partner better), but because of an emotional need. He can't even see what an asshole his boyfriend is. The movie is supposedly based on a true story.
The scenes are breezy, observant, and direct, some of the best in Pablo's oeuvre, or in any of the gay movies this year, with brisk editing and the wistfulness of Isha's minimalist music. There's not much actual sex or nudity, but the director's original cut (one you can't see in commercial theaters) includes an onscreen cumshot by Andro Morgan. Seemingly simple, with a soulful core, Quicktrip has magic.